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Fri 20th Mar 2020 - All UK pubs, bars and restaurants told to close, government outlines measures to help pay staff
All UK pubs, restaurants and cafes told to close – tonight: Prime minister Boris Johnson has told all pubs, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres they must close from tonight as the government ramps up measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Johnson asked all UK businesses in those sectors to close down as soon as they could today but added they could still provide takeaway and delivery services. The prime minister said takeaways would be excluded from the new measures. There was no indication how long the forced closure period would last but it will be reviewed on a monthly basis. Johnson said: “We want you to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.” He said this measure seemed to go against the “freedom-loving instincts of British people” but added: “We will get through this – we will get through it together and beat this virus.” Before the government’s announcement, brewer and retailer Greene King had already said it would temporarily close its central London pubs. In a statement issued this afternoon, the company said its 111 managed pubs in the centre of the city would close at 9pm on Saturday (21 March) until further notice. The company said it was committed to paying all staff until 5 April. Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie said: “It’s with great sadness for all of us at Greene King, especially our teams in London, that we are closing our pubs in Zone 1. At the current time we believe this is the right thing to do. I’d like to thank our team members who have been doing a great job in recent weeks under increasingly challenging circumstances. We have committed to pay all team members until 5 April and continue to call on the government to provide much-needed support to protect jobs and the Great British pub. Pubs are at the heart of communities and we know for some people a visit to the pub is the only contact they will with others that day. We will continue with a takeaway service and Deliveroo from some Greene King pubs and all our Metropolitan pubs, and will look to expand this service in the coming weeks. We don’t know how long we’ll be closed for but we’ll be ready to reopen and welcome back our customers as soon as we can.” Separately, Davy’s announced all its wine bars and associated bars and restaurants had temporarily closed until further notice. 

Government outlines measures to pay staff after it shutters venues: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has outlined a series of measures to help pay staff after the industry was told to shut its doors. The government will pay 80% of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 a month. The measure will be in place for three months and then reviewed – but Sunak promised there would be “no limit” on funding. Sunak said he was also deferring VAT for all businesses until the end of June. The chancellor also said business interruption loans would be interest-free for 12 months rather than the six months previously announced. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls tweeted: “It is vital now that all rent payments for hospitality businesses – due on Wednesday next week – are cancelled or deferred. Mass business failure is likely without it as businesses have no cash. This a big package but there’s a growing problem as money doesn’t flow through until the end of April. The lack of urgency and immediacy will cause real problems. No business has yet got its hands on a loan and companies in hospitality – now told to close – will run out of cash. Cash runs out in days not weeks. I suspect many staff will have to be laid-off on reduced hours or pay until the money comes through.” London Union founder Jonathan Downey said: “Every new measure is helpful and this is a very positive step that many employers will welcome but, for many more, this will not be enough. When businesses fail in the next few weeks, because they cannot make March quarter rent payments, there will be no employer to pay this 80% to employees. Employees who lose their jobs will then have to rely on Universal Credit.A forfeiture moratorium would save hundreds of thousands of jobs that would otherwise be lost.”

London footfall down 76% as UK numbers continue to plummet: UK high-street footfall was down an average 74% across the UK on Thursday (19 March) compared with the previous year as people stayed at home during the coronavirus crisis, according to the latest data from Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social. The analysis, which took an aggregated look at footfall in more than 800 venues nationally and focused mainly on major cities, showed footfall in London was down 76% year-on-year, with Zone 1 down 82%. Of the other cities analysed, Edinburgh saw the biggest drop (75%). Cardiff was down 74% followed by Bristol (70%), Liverpool (68%), Manchester (66%), Birmingham (63%) and Newcastle (63%). Wireless Social said during the past seven days there had been a 50% drop in footfall compared with the same period last year.

New York to implement 90-day moratorium on commercial evictions: New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state would implement a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants. The announcement means restaurants or bars in the state that can’t pay rent in the next few months won’t be pushed out from their premises for non-payment. “For some restaurants, this little bit of breathing room could mean the difference between paying employees and shutting their doors forever,” Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, told Eater NY. “That being said, this relief is temporary and we’ll continue to advocate for additional ways to help restaurants survive during this crisis.”

UberEats UK announces restaurant relief measures: UberEats UK has announced a range of initiatives to support independent restaurant owners and operators. “The high street is being hit hard by coronavirus but the sector can play a critical role in helping the thousands of people who rely on it for work and as an essential service during this difficult time,” said UberEats UK general manager Toussaint Wattinne. “We are putting in place a range of initiatives to continue to support restaurant partners, particularly small business owners, as they keep their kitchens firing to feed people across the country. The package includes free delivery for all independent restaurants and many more that operate on the UberEats app to help drive orders towards more than 15,000 small and medium businesses.” The company is also introducing an opt-in programme for all restaurants on the platform offering daily payments rather than the standard weekly option. The company is also waiving activation fees to help restaurants that want to join the platform and introducing fast-tracked onboarding to them get online as soon as possible. “In testing economic circumstances maintaining cash flow and paying staff and suppliers remains a priority for small businesses. We will offer restaurants the option to receive daily payments rather than payments once a week,” said Wattinne. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Thousands of small businesses in the restaurant, cafe and catering industry have already felt the full force of the coronavirus outbreak. Many businesses are reporting a massive drop in footfall and a catastrophic reduction in revenue. This is an unprecedented crisis and we’re at the make or break point for a lot of businesses. This initiative by UberEats is welcome as it will allow small businesses to quickly pivot to ensure they are still able to serve great food, keep their doors open longer and keep their teams working throughout this very difficult time.”

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